Fleet Lets Customers Choose
Fleet National Bank has appeared more than once lately in the pages of Inside Direct Mail. In the December 2003 issue, Fleet was noted among only a few companies using an unusual, new bar code ("New Bar Code Still a Mystery"), and in February 2004, an article in MailWatch reported on Fleet's pre-holiday postcard mailing announcing a "Special 0% APR on new purchases for the holidays!" ("Use Your Card ... Please"). While, in general, financial services companies are no slouchers when it comes to the volume and vastness of their direct mail efforts, Fleet seems to be trying particularly hard to edge one step ahead of the competition by targeting consumers with tactics that fall just outside industry norms.
In January, Fleet caught our eye again with a new message to its current cardholders: Choose your rate. The mailing bearing this curious message aimed to entice cardholders to use Fleet checks to pay off other high-interest balances or just "for extra spending money," among other suggested uses (550FLEBAN0104). It arrived in a 6" x 8" white outer, with two glassine windows. One window displays the recipient's name and address; the other shows two rates: "1.9% APR for 5 months," and "4.9% APR for 11 months." Two arrows point to the APR rates with the messaging: "Pick a number."
Inside, the arrow graphic is repeated at the top of the letter, but here the copy reads: "Now you can choose your rate." The letter plays on the consumer's desire to be in the driver's seata trend many marketers have been tapping, in one way or another, for some time. The letter uses wording such as: "Finally an offer that puts you in control."
The checks conveniently are already filled out with each of the two rates, and the letter explains, "Just use the checks that match the rate and term you want. We'll take care of the rest."
The Who's Mailing What Archive hadn't encountered a mailing from a
financial services firm offering prospects or current customers a choice. But to be sure, we consulted Kelli Barabasz, director of traffic and forecasting for international customer interaction services firm LiveBridge. Barabasz's expertise centers largely around credit card companies. While she hasn't seen prospects given a choice in credit card acquisition mailings, she explains that LiveBridge does have a client who mailed a balance transfer offer to current customers with three rates/terms from which to choose: 3.99% for one year, 4.99% for 11/2 years, and 5.99% for two years. "The response rate definitely went up with that mailing, but we didn't get to see which rate they were choosing," she notes.
Offering customers a choice certainly is an attempt to break free of the mold, she suggests. "I think, right now, credit card companies are trying to find different, innovative ways to reach consumers. We've certainly seen a heck of a lot more freebies from them, and the mailings look a lot different than they used tothey're a lot more colorful."
Barabasz says she expects this will not be the last we see of this choice-
messaging in the financial services sector. In addition to giving consumers a sense of control and involvement in the offer, companies also might issue a choice, Barabasz says, because, "they want to see what people are interested in. ... Do they want a one-year term, two-year?" Why not ask them?